12 July 2015
Leaders of the Sepoy Mutiny (First War of Independence) 10.5.1984
The postal department issued four stamps on 10.4.1984 to honour the Leaders of the Sepoy Mutiny during the First War of Independence against the British. Brief details of the personalities involved are given in the paragraphs below.
Tatya Tope also known as Ram Chandra Pandurang was born in 1814 at village Gola in Maharashtra. In 1851, when Lord Dalhousie deprived Nana Saheb of his father's pension, Tatya Tope became a sworn enemy of the British. In May 1857, when the political storm was gaining momentum, he won over the Indian troops of the East India Company, stationed at Kanpur, established Nana Saheb's authority and became the Commander-in-Chief of his revolutionary force. After the reoccupation of Kanpur and separation from Nana Saheb, Tatya Tope shifted his headquarters to Kalpi to join hands with Rani Lakshmi Bai and led a revolt in Bundelkhand. He was routed at Betwa, Koonch, and Kalpi, but reached Gwalior and declared Nana Saheb as Peshwa with the support of the Gwalior contingent. Before he could consolidate his position he was defeated by General Rose in a memorable battle in which Rani Lakshmi Bai salso lost her life. After losing Gwalior to the British, he launched a successful guerilla campaign in the Sagar and Narmada regions and in Khandesh and Rajasthan. The British forces failed to subdue him for over a year. He was, however, betrayed by his trusted friend Man Singh, Chief of Marwar, while asleep in his camp in the Paron forest. He was captured and taken to Sipri where he was tried by a military court and executed at the gallows on April 18, 1859.
NANA SAHEB a Maratha, and one of the leaders of the First War of Independence, Nana Saheb was born in 1824 to Narayan Bhatt and Ganga Bai. In 1827 his parents went to the court of the last Peshwa Baji Rao, who adopted Nana Saheb, thus making him heir-presumptive to the throne. Nana Saheb was well educated. He studied Sanskrit and was known for his deep religious nature. On the death of the last Peshwa, Baji Rao-II, in 1851 the Company's Government stopped the annual pension and the title. Nana Saheb's appeal to the Court of Directors was not accepted. This made him hostile towards the British rulers. When the First War of Independence broke out, he assumed leadership of the mutineers in Kanpur. After seizing Kanpur, which had a small British garrison, Nana Saheb proclaimed himself as Peshwa and called for the total extermination of the British power in India. Kanpur was recaptured by the British General Havelock and the last serious engagement (16 July, 1857) resulted in total route of Nana's forces. Nana rode away to an unknown destination in Nepal in 1859 and probably perished in the jungle.
BEGUM HAZRAT MAHAL was the wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Hazrat Mahal was known as the Begum of Avadh. In addition to being gifted with irrestible physical charm, she had an inborn genius for organisation and command. After her husband had been sent away in exile to Calcutta, she with the cooperation of a zealous hand of supporters like Sarafaddaulah, Maharaj Bal Krishna, Raja Jai Lal and above all Mammon Khan worked incessantly to revive the fortunes of Avadh. She seized control of Lucknow in association with the revolutionary forces and set up her son, Prince Birjis Qadr, as the King of Avadh, Hazrat Mahal worked in association with Nana Saheb but later escaped from Lucknow and joined the Maulavi of Faizabad in the attack on Sahajahanpur. She was driven from pillar to post, but she made her retreat with fortitude. She rejected with contempt the promises of allowance and status held out to her by the British against whom her hatred was unrelenting. In the end after bearing misfortunate and misery throughout the period of resistance, she found asylum in Nepal where she died in 1879.
Mangal Pandey, a resident of Ballia, in Uttar Pradesh, was a soldier in the army of the British East India Company. At the time of the First War of Independence, the Company introduced new rifles, which used animal fat for greasing the cartridges. Influenced by the example of his compatriots in Behrampur, Mangal Pandey refused to use the greased cartridges and broke into open mutiny on March 29, 1857, at Barrackpore near Calcutta and urged his comrades to join him. Surrounding by guards and European Officers, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself and was seriously wounded. He was court-martialled on April 6 and hanged at Barrackpore on April 8, 1857.